Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Word on the Street

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Word on the Street

I am hearing such varying accounts of what's about to go down next week in Topeka that I can't make heads or tails of it. I'm going to dump it all here, and maybe someone smarter than me can make sense of how the push to give more money to property owners in support of government schools is going to go down.

1. Seriously, the Governor HATES the members of his own party. I don't get it at all. He's apparently the most loyal of people to old friends, but Kim Borchers and Mark Dugan didn't get that guy elected twice all on their own. They had help--loads and loads of it, from current legislators and their grassroots supporters. (True story: I still have Brownback literature and signs in my trunk. Anyone need some?) It's absolutely enraging that the Governor is in a position to lead and lead with strength from the right, and it appears he will not do it. Brownback's spokesperson said he believes legislators need to approve $38 million for LOB equalization. 

This is where I'm pretty certain Brownback comes from the Washington, D.C., school of budgeting. Tagline: Just throw more money at it! We'll print more!

Kansas doesn't have that option. There is no money tree. The money tree is the taxpayers, and we're broke. Our salaries haven't kept pace with inflation. Two-thirds of us don't have enough money to fund a $400 emergency. This cash tree is in a drought. Someone has to stop spending our money, and Governor, that's why we elected you.

I think Brownback is beaten down, but that's not an excuse. Here's the very specific story I heard: The Governor has checked out. He told legislative leaders to "go head and pay them," meaning the schools. (I TOLD YOU IT WAS A HOSTAGE SITUATION!) The response to the Governor's suggestion was that there aren't enough votes to pull money from Johnson County, which is what would be required to equalize without additional spending. And so Brownback basically said, go ahead and figure it out. I hope everything I just wrote is inaccurate. 

Throw a brief pity party if you must, Governor, and then strap on the armor, man! 

Strap it on, and get out there and lead. And for the love of all things holy, lead from the right. We're the ones who brought you to this dance, so sign our dance cards. This may mean political seppuku, but at least you get to leave office with your dignity and principles in tact. People admire that. I admire that.

2. The Senate, for now, appears far, far less wobbly than the House. Though SenAtor Jeff King has floated a plan to take some money from the highway fund, I hear that won't work, because the highway funds are all federal funds with strings. 

I also hear the Senate is highly likely to move on a constitutional amendment that would make it illegal for the Court to close schools. (Again, I think the suggestion that the Court currently has that authority is absolutely laughable. But apparently the Court needs to really have it spelled out in detail so simple that even a third grader could understand it.) 

3. House appropriations folks are working on a plan. I've been warned that I will hate it. This means it's a plan in which there's some political theater followed by schools getting even more money. And, yes, I hate it. A quick rehash: If we capitulate to the Court's demands for more cash, we create a dangerous precedent that puts far, far too much power in the hands of a few people selected by a secret committee of ambulance chasers. This is untenable for the future, and it leaves conservatives and reasonable people in support of fiscal sanity no choice but to treat the Kansas Supreme Court as a political arm. (It always has been, but liberals say they don't want that.)

Second, at some point, we just can't keep throwing money at the schools. Schools already receive 50 percent of the Kansas budget. There are other people in this state and other services the state provides. We've cut services to the elderly; we've cut services to mental health; this is what happens when we sacrifice everything on the altar of THE CHILDREN. 

4. All of this eventually ends with some sort of conference committee. That's assuming either body--the House or the Senate--is able to pass anything. I seriously don't know how either body gets the votes required to move on anything. It's either take money from Johnson County, which I have trouble seeing JoCo legislators agreeing to, or take money already budgeted to somewhere else. I honestly don't see the west half of the state going for that. (By west, I mean everything west of Douglas County.) I don't see how you create a coalition out of these folks, and I definitely don't see how you create anything remotely resembling a conservative coalition, despite the fact that Kansas and its legislature is one of the most conservative in the nation. 

This failure belongs to all of us, conservatives. We're going to have to work harder. (Or listen to the soothing music as the ship sinks. Sigh.) Here's the small pep talk for us: These liberal screamers are getting louder and more awful, because we're making real strides. So take some heart, friends.

5. I wish legislators and the Governor recognized that the people screaming the loudest don't speak for everyone. I don't even think they speak for a majority. I wrote some pretty aggressive things about firing the judges, and the feedback I received privately from many, many teachers, school officials, and even other judges across the state was, yes, the Court was completely out of line. I really think the silent majority has drawn that conclusion. We need to rally those folks. (And if you happen to be one of those folks, please, please contact  your conservative legislators and/or the Governor's Office and let them know you're with them. Clearly they need to hear it.)

Even people who think the schools should get more money--which we need to be reminding people that "giving money to schools" in this instance will actually mean property tax relief for some homeowners in Wichita-- think the Courts went too far.

6. Again, the Justices up for retention should be canned, and I sincerely hope someone is working on a grassroots effort to make that happen. That's where conservatives ought to focus ALL of their attention this fall. On my ballot, I'll vote to retain Caleb Stegall. He didn't rule on the scandalous Court decision threatening to close schools. He's only been on the Court briefly. But, if you aren't able to remember names and specifics, it's better to fire all of the Justices than to keep the one who may or may not be a bust. Stegall has said a few things in this aftermath that make me feel a little stabby, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

1 comment:

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